Of all the things I hate (and there are many!), having to go to a sweet shop in festive season surely features in the Top 20. Being born in a country obsessed with food, sweets in particular, comes with its own set of problems. Festivals don’t really get their culture and traditional factor pumped up unless there has been a royal exchange of sweet boxes for every single one of the nC2 combinations, ‘n’ here being the number of relatives and friends one has. And ‘n’ being a very generous number for all of us, it is imperative that nC2 gives us hell and makes sure that one third of our time is wasted in purchasing sweets, another one-third in distributing them (and getting stuck in traffic jams), and the leftover in wondering what to do with the Giga tons of sweets that have taken over our living rooms and kitchens.
Anyway, coming back to the point, it was Diwali time and I was at Bikanerwala. Apparently, this guy is like the Jim Morrison of the sweets business, and everyone wants a piece of his stuff (no pun intended)! The scene was frightening, to say the least- Baffled uncles running around with lists, aunties yelling at the staff for cheating them of their pieces of Kaju Barfi and kids squealing and jumping around. I mentally replaced all the sweets with fire and Jimmy’s staff with devil’s imps and I could very well visualize what hell would look like!
Amidst this entire hullabaloo, in one corner of the shop, there were two neatly formed queues for billing- One for ladies and one for gents! I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this. Apparently, India has a huge obsession with the 2 queue system. From the long ‘l’ shaped ones at railway stations and government offices to the wavering horizontals at Gol Gappe/Tikki joints, queues in India always exist in pairs. Like the poles of a magnet. Many theories have been propounded to explain this phenomenon. The most prominent ones include the Theory of Equality of Women, Theory of Convenience to the Fairer (by which they mean weaker) Sex, Theory of Hypocritical Display of Gender Parity and the Theory of Touchy Feely. And so it had come to this? Purchasing sweets had also become another variable in setting the male-female equation right? Pardon me for my naivety if I am unable to figure out the relation between gender parity and (purchase of) Gulab Jamuns! But, in a country obsessed with proving it has the largest number of morons, this seemed to be another feather in the cap of the supposed guardians of female rights. Really?
Sisters, mothers and others, if you really believe that most men of this country will not ogle at you if you stand in a separate queue, that you won’t be mentally undressed by most of them if you stand 5 feet farther, and that this virtual sexual assault is not as bad as actual physical advances, please do form a separate queue.
Feminists, women’s rights activists and promoters of equality of women, if you think that a separate queue is a possible cure for all the ills associated with gender disparity, think again. Whenever any uncle tags along an aunty with him to a railway reservation counter, hands her the money and the form and places her in the ladies’ queue, he not only makes her look like a puppet but he also makes all of you look like a fool. I feel the purpose is defeated every time that happens. And isn’t the provision of separate queues based on the fact that some people here actually believe that women aren’t strong enough to bear the inconvenience of long queues? That they are weaklings who deserve some leverage? So, doesn’t that make this whole thing self-contradictory? And if this whole system exists to provide some extra convenience to women, aren’t you tilting the balance against the Martians? Trust me, it sucks to be a man when you are standing in a kilometer long queue for hours and suddenly some girl walks right up to the counter, utters the magic words ‘Ladies line hai’ and voila, her work’s done. It hurts. A lot.
Lawmakers and public administrators, you are assholes. Instead of putting up ‘Ladies queue’ boards at every public office, try getting your law and order in order. Prevent crimes against women; give them equal education and employment opportunities; make legal inclusions for them in bureaucracy and government.
Men of this country, don’t think that giving women some space at counters is all that you’ve got to do on your part. Give them space elsewhere too. You know what I’m trying to say. So, let’s just all try to be decent enough and broaden our perspectives. If your thoughts promote equality and respect, your actions will reflect them.
Meanwhile, back at the sweet shop, an uncle tried the old trick of making a puppet out of his wife. Some others followed suit. An elderly fellow raised questioned the morality of this act. A verbal argument ensued and finally it was mayhem at Desi Jim’s Diwali concert!
Queues are made to be broken, eh?